While this may not come as much of a surprise following the news earlier this month that the San Antonio Rampage will begin a five-year partnership with the St. Louis Blues in 2018-19, Mike Chambers of the Denver Post is confirming that the ECHL’s Colorado Eagles will become the AHL’s 31st franchise. The club will act as the Avalanche’s AHL affiliate for 2018-19.
After the Vegas Golden Knights were added to the NHL, it was expected that AHL expansion would happen eventually. The Golden Knights made an initial affiliation with the Chicago Wolves, leaving the Blues without a minor league club for this season. They’ll send players to the Wolves and various other AHL organizations, but have little say when it comes to playing time and role. NHL teams are moving more and more to geographically close affiliates for the added benefits of player transactions and coaching staff proximity, allowing them to watch over their teams more closely. Now Colorado will enjoy the same benefit.
The Eagles won the Kelly Cup this season as the ECHL’s best franchise, and have a long history of regular season success. With the Avalanche building a large group of young players they might find themselves with early success in the AHL as well. Last year the Rampage went just 27-42-7, but with continued development of young players like A.J. Greer and Chris Bigras, along with the potential addition of older prospects like Andrei Mironov and Dominic Toninato, the team could bounce back in a hurry.